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User groups pick up where associations drop the ball.

It is ironic that present-day user groups have taken over what the telecomm associations originally were established to do. That is, provide a shield to protect their members against the "slings and arrows" thrown at them, by vendors and suppliers, and act as a forum for user-vendor concerns.

The list of user groups is a long and proud one. There are the National Centrex Users Group (NCUG), International SL-I Users Association (ISLUA), National Rolm Users Group (NRUG), National Association of Mitel Users Group (NAMUG), NEAX 2400 IMS Users and PictureTel Users Group (PUG), to name just a few. Almost every company with a sizable installed base has established or supports a users group. Often the group is used as a sounding board for new products or services and provides the user with a forum to offer constructive criticism.

The heart of the association vs. user-group matter is that the telecomm associations have not responded to the needs of their members and, as a result, there has been a proliferation of new users groups. The Energy Telecommunications and Electrical Association (ENTELEC) was founded as the first and oldest of the telecomm associations. It was followed by the ICA, CMA, CICA and others. Years ago, such groups were the only ones around to do battle with the only supplier on the block: the Bell System. All has changed.

Although there have been attempts by some of the telecomm associations over the years to respond to the special needs of their memberships, it usually was after the fact. So users, groups were formed ... many of them even founded and led by disgruntled members of the telecomm association community itself.

Some telecomm associations included users groups as part of their, annual conference programs. The ICA-Centrex Users alliance is an example. Other telecomm associations provided free meeting space to users groups during their annual conferences.

My, have times changed. Today some user groups put on an annual conference and exposition which is larger and better attended than many of those hosted by telecomm associations. The user group leadership is strong and the membership is loyal., Volunteerism rivals even the most successful telecomm associations, while several users groups have paid staff and executive directors.

The issue at hand is what to do about the situation facing the association community. There is competition for vendor/supplier attendance and sponsorship at shows. There is competition for a membership, leadership, programming, and scheduling between telecomm associations and users groups.

Quite frankly, something's got to give. Attendance and revenues any way down at association shows.

Telecomm associations must get, back to the original roots of why they were founded. There must be a lot of pruning and weeding to get rid of surplus or irrelevant activities. There should be some grafting of association and user group activities where there are shared interests. However, it will not and can not happen overnight since both the telecomm associations and the users groups are too rooted in their own turf.

I suggest starting a dialog with both groups similar to that which took place 10 years ago when the individual telecomm associations realized the need to start a liaison among themselves. This led to the formation of TAC. Perhaps users groups could start the process and try to coordinate conference schedules as TAC did in the beginning.

I hope this will lead to a dialogue with TAC where there would be industry-wide coordination of events, conferences and activities.

Give me a call at 805-481-8016 if you have any ideas on the topic.
COPYRIGHT 1995 Nelson Publishing
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Copyright 1995 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:telecommunications associations
Author:Underwood, Roger
Publication:Communications News
Date:Oct 1, 1995
Words:589
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